Soulslike games have been enjoying a lot of popularity among indie developers these days, and two interesting attempts have been made of them in recent weeks. Hellpoint, released in late July, tried to renew the well-known formula of the genre with sci-fi and horror elements, and Mortal Shell from the Cold Symmetry team is also trying to update the genre of soulslike games a bit, with some innovation. And the end result is a lot more fun than one might think at first.
The Familiar Elements
Basically, Mortal Shell works just like most soulslike games:
- The story is pretty dark and depressing, and in keeping with the traditions of the genre, it’s not really explained. We need to put the story together from a lot of little references and information. However, a few words about it, in short: we have to travel through a dying, disintegrated world with a strange being who has recently been revived. Unfortunately, there are no really spectacular locations in the game, but the whole game has a really strong and dark atmosphere, whether we walk in a wild forest full of ancient ruins or on some kind of mystical halfway between life and death. For this gloomy "story", the developers managed to create a very depressing world.
- The combat system is really difficult (as you would expect from a soulslike game). Our character can die from just a few hits, so we can’t attack the enemy like a madman. We need to know our opponent and avoid their attacks so that we can then strike at the right moment, taking advantage of their momentary vulnerability. During the game, our two most important qualities are vitality and stamina, we have to manage these during each fight, and we also get a Resolve bar, that can be loaded with successful hits and spent on stronger attacks.
And while the mechanics of Mortal Shell may seem like just a simple copy of Dark Souls, based on the above, the developers thankfully put two major innovations into the game. One such little extra is that our character can turn into stone at any time for a short time, which can be useful in two ways: on the one hand, we are not wounded in this state, so with the help of the ability we can also avert attacks that can be fatal, on the other hand, our opponents' weapons bounce off the stone, leaving them vulnerable to our blade.
The other exciting innovation of the game is that we can occupy corpses. These fallen warriors can be found scattered in the game, and from the moment we occupy one, we are free to control and develop our new "shell" (maybe that's why the game is called Mortal Shell). The appearance and abilities of each corpse are different, and if their vitality drops to zero, the occupation ceases. In this case, we have two choices: either we re-occupy the body, or we try to defeat our attackers in real form, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful, because the second death is final in both cases.
And these innovations work great with the already well-established mechanics of the soulslike games, and at the same time give the game a strong, unique taste. That’s why Mortal Shell can seem difficult (especially if you’re not familiar with the world of this genre), but once you manage to learn the combat system and get to know your opponents, it provides a great gaming experience.
Small Team, Small Soulslike
In terms of its gameplay, Mortal Shell is a very enjoyable and exciting game, but on the technical side of the program, unfortunately, you can feel that it’s the work of a small indie team. In my opinion the biggest problem I have to mention is that the fps number sometimes drops unreasonably for a short time. Useless to say it can be quite uncomfortable when you have to react fast to your opponent’s moves in battles . This bug could not be completely eliminated by changing the graphics settings either.
All in all, Mortal Shell is an absolutely good and recommended game that can be of interest primarily to fans of soulslike titles. The two new combat mechanical elements can hold pleasant novelties even for genre veterans, and while unfortunately the technical side is clearly the game's weak-point, but I think the weak animations and the sometimes low fps numbers are not enough reasons to miss this game.